3DXL 3D Printing Exhibit


Last night we had the distinct pleasure of attending 3DXL, the latest exhibit hosted by the Design Exchange. The exhibit focuses on the innovative use of 3D printing in architecture and is housed in a glass box in the heart of the Entertainment District.

3D printing has been making waves in the media. Its applications in fashion and wearable technology have been of particular interest to us here at the studio, but the technology is suited to numerous other design disciplines as well. Although the technology was first developed in the late ‘80s, it is still in its infancy as we learn how to best utilize it.

One of the major stumbling blocks in fashion has been the amount of time required to print, the resolution of the items, and the tedious process itself that must be executed and carried out to perfection. Printer development has not yet evolved to the point of being able to do large scale printing or mass amounts.

At the exhibit, we saw innovative ways in which architects are approaching 3D printing, techniques that could carry over into experimentation in the fashion industry.

Powder printing seems to be a popular trend in architecture which makes sense. Ground powder and a liquid binder can create stunning, detailed and strong structures.

Emerging Objects from Oakland, California displayed their Saltygloo. The igloo structure is composed of 336 translucent 3D printed blocks that are created using a technique that prints the sections of the components onto powder which then fuses together. Made from salt harvested from San Francisco Bay, the powder is injected with a liquid binder similar to glue. The process can be done using a wide variety of materials such as chocolate, coffee, concrete, and sawdust. The company is “always looking for ways to reincorporate the waste from other processes” into their projects, Alex Schofield told us. Eventually, Emerging Objects would like to see 3D printing used to create curtain walls for buildings. “We’re experimenting with…different ways to do that where it’s either a thin shell on a substructure…or a structural component of its own, more like a brick,” said Kent Wilson, a designer and production specialist at Emerging Objects.

Emerging Objects’ “Saltygloo”

Arabesque Wall is the creation of the renowned Benjamin Dillenburger and Michael Hansmeyer. Entirely 3D printed using sand and a liquid binder, the structure material is similar to sandstone in both appearance and strength. The use of finely ground sand allows for a greater level of detail to be achieved in the printing process. The mathematical operation relies on an algorithm to create the designs which are then printed layer by layer into what is essentially a vat of sand. The wall’s design was inspired by Arabian ornamentation. The costs and time involved in creating something so detailed is basically the same as creating a plain wall. “We are trying to test out the resolution that is possible right now to design architecture so we are trying to create something with different scales that when you come closer you see and discover new structures, new symmetries,” said Dillenburger.

“Arabesque Wall”

Benjamin Dillenburger moved from Zurich to teach at the Daniels Faculty at the University of Toronto. His students were also included in the exhibit, displaying a project inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s textile blocks. Wright believed that concrete blocks were the ugliest things to build with, so he had simple patterns cast in the blocks and arranged them to create a beautiful wall. The students used Dillenburger’s 3D printed sand technique to create heavily detailed blocks that closely resembled artificial sandstone.

At 3DXL we saw the familiar Makerbot Replicators, printing out miniature Toronto monuments in the DX Lab section of the exhibit. The printers build the design from the bottom up using extrusion and plastic filament. What really grabbed our attention were the innovations being made to printers.

DUS Architects had components and 3D printed models showing the development of their current project, the world’s first 3D printed 4-storey building which is being built room-by-room. The chosen design was the iconic Canal House which is an icon of Amsterdam. On one wall is a full-size projection of the project being printed. Printers similar in technology and function to the Makerbot are being used but have been scaled up to 6 Meters in height. Each piece is printed from layered recycled plastic, with channels for concrete or wiring making them very versatile.

A new model of ABB Robotics was in action in the exhibit. The WireMass project was produced onsite specifically for 3DXL in collaboration with Gilles Retsin, Manuel Jimenez Garcia, and Vincente Soler of the UCL/Bartlett School of Architecture. In the past, industrial robots have been used primarily for factory work, doing repetitive tasks on the assembly line. These robots have only been able to work horizontally and vertically, but this new model by ABB Robotics works on 6 axels which allows it to make organic shapes. The team altered the robot, programming a definitive path for it to operate on and making a custom extruder to attach to the end of the robot. The plastic filament is 3D printing and creating chairs which will be on display at the exhibit. By the end of 3DXL, the hope is to have 30 completed chairs on display.

3D printing has numerous benefits with less waste output, less energy consumption to manufacture, and cheaper and faster production. This could be the solution to our issue of dwindling resources.

3DXL is a strong exhibit that shows the potential of the future this technology may hold. With a wide range of practical applications and a long list of benefits, 3D printing is proving that it is the process of the future.

3DXL is running until August 16th at 363 King Street West.


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